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Lessons from the Last Samurai

When I think of the Samurai, a variety of dramatic images and concepts come to mind. They were arguably the world’s foremost experts in warfare. Extremely disciplined, filled with honor and love of country, the Samurai were the epitome of a warrior – fierce, fearless and continually moving forward. The Samurai knew not the meaning of the word retreat. It was full force ahead at all times.  And this was one of the reasons for the extinction of this Samurai class. The last Samurai.

As someone who adopted this “full force forward” attitude (or perhaps born with it), I can list the tremendous value in this approach . . . most of the time. Most of what I have achieved is due to the “Samurai mentality.” No obstacle too great. If a wall is in front, low your head and plow through. Unsheath the sword and move forward.

Two situations occurred this week that has me rethinking my Samurai approach.

On Monday, a number of entrepreneurial friends got together for our monthly meeting. My friend Carlos,  being a Samurai at heart, spoke in a way I had never heard him speak before. A cross between inspirational lecture and Taoist poetry, the eloquent sentences that came forth were stunning to me. In short, he spoke of simply letting go, of letting life unfold on its terms and its pace versus grabbing the sword and going full sprint. He has begun doing this and life is unfolding in a much happier fashion.  My summation does not do it justice but the impact was tremendous.

Last night was fencing night, one of my favorite activities. During my last match of the evening, I was paired up with my teacher, Jim. At one point, I launched a magnificently aggressive attack (or so I thought), only to be “skewered” rather easily. It was not that Jim did a skilled parry-riposte combination or something to this effect. Nothing like that at all. He just extended his arm, and yours truly ran directly into the foil. Nothing could have been simpler.

  • Extend arm.
  • Watch over-aggressive fencer impale himself by running directly into foil.
  • (Have good laugh at said over-aggressive fencer’s well-earned expense.)
A good teacher would have taken this opportunity to teach something about fencing. A great teacher takes this opportunity to teach something about life. Jim, being the latter, stated. . . .“Fencing is like chess. Calculate your moves and let matters express themselves in their own time. Kind of like life.”
I responded with a nod and a comment that my “Samurai attitude” is very ingrained. Jim’s reply was a piercing as the foil strike.
“And that is why there are no more Samurai. . . ” 
How true.
And perhaps that is the reason did not make the movie, “The Last Fencer.”

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